Advice for home charity tourney?

Greetings Tilt Forum-ers! Seeking your advice…

My wife and I are hosting a fundraiser at our home in late February. It’s a ticketed event that includes all-you-care to have food and drinks, with a games-night theme that will create additional opportunities to raise funds for our local Riverkeeper. I have a 10+ machine collection and wanted to run a little pinball tournament.

Just wanted some advice on setting up a tournament that will be fun for newbies and will only last about 2-3 hours. We don’t have a pinball scene in my town and to my knowledge there’s never been an IFPA event held within 2 hours of here. That’s something that I would like to change but not sure if it’s worth registering this event.

I was thinking 3-strikes using Matchplay events software but this would be my first tournament I would be running so open to anyone’s suggestions and advice. I’ve played in a few, just never run one. We’re expecting maybe 100 ppl at the fundraiser but I anticipate maybe only 16 people at most would want to participate in the pinball tournament.

Probable Lineup:
Scared Stiff
DESW with new Chad H code 1.07
Evel K
Stars (if ready)
Gottlieb Kingpin (maybe? It’s a 1-player)

Any advice on format/style would be greatly appreciated. Any thoughts on entry fee? Should I register this for WPPRs? I plan on making trophies and/or having prizes for the winners but would prefer the cash go to our charity for the night as that’s kinda the point.

Thanks in advance.
Josh Y
Savannah, GA

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You can register it, and it can’t hurt to do it, but note that any tournament in a private residence has to have at least 16 players to count for WPPRs.

Sounds like a casual crowd. I’d probably stick with a few high score contests and maybe some Stall Ball (WCS94 is great for this for casuals because of the goal).

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Only if it’s marked as a “Private” tournament. If you’re willing to publish your address on the IFPA calendar, the minimum of 16 players doesn’t apply.

As for the format, I also suggest doing high score contests, but would add a playoff component as well. If it’s a casual thing, the less structure, the easier it is, especially with folks who aren’t familiar with pinball tournaments.

With so many games, you could do a best game format with 3 or 4 machines counting then either a 4- or 8-player playoff, depending on your numbers and how much time you want the finals to take.

It won’t be worth a lot of WPPRs, but I would still register it with the IFPA, if you’re looking to grow the scene in your area. This will count as a tournament towards getting new players rated. (In fact, if you wanted to speed up the “rating” process, you could run a bunch of individual high-score-with-single-game-playoff tournaments, but that would cost more, so probably isn’t worth it given that you’re trying to raise money for charity!)

Here’s what I’d probably do:

  • 2 hours of best game qualifying with top 4 scores counting
  • For short playoffs, I’d do a single 4-player game final
  • If you’ve got more time, I’d do either a 4-player PAPA-style 3-game final or two rounds of single 4-player game playoffs for the top 8

It all depends on the attention you think your participants will pay to the tournament and how engaged you want them to be.

As for the entry fee, maybe $10? Hard to say without knowing what else you have going on or how much the admission ticket is. Alternatively, you could charge $5 for the first five attempts (basically $1 a game) and $2 for each game thereafter.

The options are endless and could involve any combination of fixed entry and/or cost per game. (Easiest to manage would probably be flat-fee or pay-per-game. For pay-per-game, basically sell players tickets to be redeemed when they play.)

Or maybe put the machines on coin drop? That would eliminate part of the administration and you might get extra money from folks who aren’t participating in the tournament.

Hope this helps! Good luck with your event.

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Thank you this is some great advice! I hadn’t considered best game qualifying but thinking about it I think it will be a lot more fun for everyone attending the fundraiser as they can have more time to mingle/enjoy the party etc in between entries instead of all being present in the game room as the next round of 3-strikes games get finished/get started. Would also allow folks showing up a little late to participate.

I am wanting to grow a scene here so hopefully some folks will have fun and maybe consider attending another pinball event in the future.

So glad I posted here. Thanks MCS and Stevevt!

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Best game qualifying is great! Another option that may or may not fit better depending on the crowd you’re expecting is to do pingolf qualifying. Set up a simple objective on each game (maybe even with pictures to show people what to shoot) and record the number of balls it takes to accomplish.

Some simple casual goals:
TAF: Start a mode
Scared Stiff: Lock a ball or start crate multiball
Shadow: Lock a ball or reach the battlefield
Pinbot: Open visor
WCS94: Score a goal

For the older games you could choose a scoring target rather than an objective.

Split Flipper tournaments are the best with people new to pinball. It’s competitive enough to get people worked up but silly enough that people don’t get too worked up.

Bird box challenge pinball is great for new people as well!

First thought:Absolutely get it put on the IFPA calendar! You’ve got to start somewhere to grow the local pinball scene. What better time than this? When people see they have a World Ranking? C’mon, many will be hooked.

Second thought. I would not do best game qualifying. You want something with more of a social aspect. Flip frenzy with matchplay is actually quite simple to run and everyone will play against many other players on many different games. The best part? It runs for an exact length of time and boom, it’s over. Next best option would probably be group matchplay. Groups of 4 play single game rounds, using IFPA(7,5,3,1) scoring. Play for a set number of rounds, say 5-7 rounds. No finals, just most points at the end wins. With this format or Flip Frenzy everyone plays the whole time. Strikes tourneys for beginners might not be so fun because half the players will eliminated after just a few games.

For entry fee I would do $10. $1 goes to IFPA and $9 to the charity.


Biggest thing for format when you know its going to be full of people new to pinball for me is just make sure everyone plays the same amount, no formats where someone can get dumped out almost immediately. Which really only eliminates a few formats! As long as everyone is having fun, that’s the major part.

I run smallish charity tournaments pretty regularly and was going to write some advice but now I don’t need to because this post encapsulates pretty much anything I would say. I guess I can add that I recommend making or acquiring a trophy for the winner or, if you have time and materials, for all four finalists. One cheap way to do this is to get some bits of wood to make a base (e.g. from the wooden shapes aisle at Michaels), glue them together, and then paint them with acrylic paint, which is very inexpensive and dries pretty smooth even if you’re not that careful about brush marks. Then raid the dollar store or Goodwill for dirt cheap figurines according to whatever theme you like, and glue them on top. Make a label with your printer and stick it on with double-sided tape. Another option, if time is the most important thing and you’re not big on making stuff, is to check a “party supply store” (the one around here is Party City) for trophies. They usually have tiny plastic ones for kids’ parties, and then again, you can stick on your own labels. Casual players will just be excited to show their friends that they won a pinball tournament!

I want to underline my agreement with the idea of registering with the IFPA. It has pros and cons. The major con, and this has unfortunately detracted from how much I earn from my charity tournaments these days, is that you will have to pay the $1 tax. I still think it’s worth doing because it will be part of growing a local scene. The faster you get your local players (including casual players) into 5 IFPA events, the faster you will start having events that actually ARE worth real WPPRs.

Good luck!

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Question becomes: is the event primarily a pinball event that happens to donate to charity, or is it primarily a charity event that happens to have pinball? If it’s the latter, IMHO skip the WPPR tax and give that money to the needy.


The latter, but there are enough players that won’t come to a nonsanctioned event (I know from experience) that I would lose more than I would gain. It is still the case that they earn less than they did when sanctioning was free, of course.

Edited to add: I just realized you may have been asking that question of the original poster rather than me, although I think my point about growing a scene still covers what I would recommend.

Well, I was sort of making a general comment for anyone who’s thinking of running a charity event…

The OP of this thread, @stepside, mentioned that his area doesn’t have much of a pinball scene and there have never been nearby WPPR events, so probably 1) the attendees aren’t likely to care if there are WPPRs offered, and 2) out-of-area WPPR chasers aren’t likely to make a special trip to attend a small tournament filled with unranked players. Given that, my personal recommendation would be to maximize the donation to the charity, rather than spending money on de minimis WPPRs that the participants are unlikely to care about.

(I’m also a fan of Charity Navigator to understand where my charitable giving is actually going, although of course that’s way out of the realm of this discussion.)

That said, this event can be used to introduce people in the area to competitive pinball, and if people seem excited about it, by all means, invite those folks to an event (be it tournament, league, etc) that’s all about the pinball, and then register that event for WPPR.

IMHO, YMMV, etc…


My inclination is to say that, on the hope that local players may eventually be interested in competitive pinball, it is worth registering because of that magic five events that each player must have to “count.” Starting that sooner will allow “real” tournaments that are worth anything to happen sooner, if things develop in that direction. Especially as someone who runs an old-style long-season league (which is disfavored by the five-event scheme), I am mindful of the problem that getting players rated can be. So, I stand by my answer, but only OP knows what is best for his needs!

I’ve hosted several charity tournaments at my house and have never had them be WPPR events.
We invited friends and coworkers and had about 20 players at the first event. I enjoy MCing events and really try to hype up matches and just have fun with it. That’s the main thing, have fun. I would keep the format simple for they reason, I’ve always held it as a 3 strike as it was simple for everyone to follow along. It you want the tourney to lastinget play in 4 player groups awarding 1 strike to lowest player.
Hosting the charity tournaments is one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in this hobby and am stoked to see you putting your collection to good use!

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I run a pretty large event in Pittsburgh in June and invented a crazy format that fits the theme of the charity. June 21st is the longest day of the year and the Alzheimer’s Association uses that day to host a number of events. The tagline is “do what you love on the longest day.” So we run an all day drop-in tournament where we choose an old game with short ball time and time players turns. The person with the longest game wins. We don’t care about the score. WPPRs are not on the table, because it doesn’t have a final, that way people who walk by in the morning can play and then they don’t have to come back. Last year a nine year old girl from out of town (who had never played pinball before) won 2nd place. We mailed her prize to her father. My husband and I donate a cash prize for first-third, and we collect handmade prizes and donated prizes from local businesses. We usually give prizes out for arbitrary reasons as well as skill based reasons. Example: we gave a prize to the person wearing the most purple, because that is the color of the Alz Assoc. and we also gave a prize to the person who had the highest score. Lack of WPPRs is never an issue. We raised over $2000 last year. Also, I’ve never seen more new people attempt a tournament before. It’s really fun and inviting. When you trap a ball on a flipper, you have 5 seconds to flip or you get DQed. The crowd all chants “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” We use stop watches and there are human errors, but we have the most fun. IFPA still graciously advertized our event on the calendar, despite our foregoing points.


A knockout format is easy for everyone to follow, but we found that people were “put off” if they weren’t good players and got knocked out in 3 games. We’ve switched our monthlies to a group match play format. X number of hours of qualifying (7/5/3/1) followed by a finals. I’ve found people enjoy this format a lot more since it’s isn’t the constant stress for the new players of “I’m going to get knocked out unless I win” mentality.

I’ve also seen people have a lot more fun as you approach the end of qualifying while they are battling it out for a playoff position.

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